Challenging myself

Back in January, when everyone was signing up for reading challenges, I promised myself simply that I would read more this year.  I made it official with a 50 book personal challenge that I set up over on Goodreads.  But as I started reading about other people’s challenges, I began to think that it might be better if I made some kind of effort to broaden my normal range of reading.  Now that doesn’t mean I don’t read widely, I do.  Anyone who knows me will tell you as much.  But I do have boundaries beyond which I haven’t thought about going, not because of fear but because I simply never considered books in certain categories, at least not in any organized way.

I went on to investigate, and one of the first resources I found was Laura Miller’s Salon piece about challenges she’d found on the internet, which was as good a place to start as any.  From there I looked into a number of separate challenges and made up my mind that my personal challenge would be to read one book from as many different challenges as I could.  Accordingly I arranged the following titles in my Kindle Challenge Fics 2011 category:

  • Chocolat, by Joanne Harris — for the Foodie’s Reading Challenge.  I finished this about a week ago.  I’ve linked to my review at Goodreads, but you can also find it on and LibraryThing.
  • Big Machine, by Victor LaValle — for the Quirky Brown Challenge “about challenging the overly subscribed to depictions of the so-called “Black experience”” as well as the PoC Challenge (People of Color.) I finished this one today and will be reviewing it soon.
  • Pomegranate Soup, by Marsha Mehran — also for the Foodie’s Reading Challenge, but I think it counts as a PoC challenge entry, too.
  • The Empty Family, by Colm Toibin — for the Irish Reading Challenge but also counts for the LGBT Reading Challenge
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe — I’m sure this will raise eyebrows if I claim it for the PoC Challenge, but it is, in fact, one view of people of color, and as such worth coming to terms with.
  • Saffron Dreams, by Shaila Abdullah — for the South Asian Challenge, and probably also the Foodie Challenge, though I’m not positive.
  • The Golden Age, by Michal Ajvaz — for the Eastern European Challenge

I’m also planning on reading something of Oscar Wilde’s, again for the Irish and LGBT challenges, and something of James Joyce for the Irish one.  I’d like to tackle Tolstoy for the Eastern European challenge, too.  Sadly there is no current Japanese challenge per se, though there is the very specific Haruki Murakami Challenge.  Nevetheless I’m hoping to tackle The Tale of Genji and call it my own personal Japanese challenge for the year.

There are quite a few challenges out there, some of which still are open to anyone who wants to play.  In addition to the list Miller compiled, I found this one from Worth Reading It? which, though there is some overlap, has some other, and potentially very interesting and fun challenges to explore.  And I found the Read-a-Myth Challenge as I was looking over some of the others, and myths?  There’s no bad there.

Since I didn’t officially sign up for any of the above challenges, I have only myself to answer to, but as I go along, I will try to review the books and stories I read.  I can’t think of a better goal for the year than to expand my horizons.


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